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Wi-Fi base stations: How to set up and configure AirPort Express for AirPlay and iTunes

Learn how to set up and configure AirPort Express for AirPlay and iTunes.

This article explains how to stream music from iTunes on your Mac or PC, or from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch (iOS 5.1 or later) to your stereo or speakers using AirPort Express as a standalone Wi-Fi base station or as one of several Wi-Fi base stations.

Note: If you would also like to stream movies and photos to your television, consider adding an Apple TV to your existing Wi-Fi network.

Note: Music streaming from iTunes, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is done via AirPlay. For an overview of AirPlay features, see the iTunes AirPlay page. For more details about AirPort Express and music sharing, see the AirPort Express Music Sharing page.

Things to consider before you begin

  • Start with a plan for the physical layout. Depending on whether you have an existing Wi-Fi network, or if you are using your AirPort Express as a standalone Wi-Fi device, there are several options available for you to choose from.
  • When using Ethernet, Cat6 cable is recommended.
  • The layout you choose should take into account environmental factors such as physical access, location, range, radio frequency interference, etc.
  • You will need to consider what AirPort Utility settings to adopt.
  • You will need to know whether you are using an AirPort Express (802.11b/g) or an AirPort Express (802.11a/b/g/n).

If you will be using more than one Wi-Fi base station, it may be helpful to read the article Extending the range of your wireless network by adding additional Wi-Fi base stations.

Different usage scenarios for the AirPort Express, and how to set them up

The AirPort Express is the only Wi-Fi base station. It provides simultaneous Wi-Fi access and AirPlay streaming.

This configuration requires that the AirPort Express is in physical cable range of both the audio device and the DSL/Cable router at the same time.

How to set it up

  1. Connect your DSL or cable modem to your AirPort Express using the WAN Ethernet port.
  2. Connect your AirPort Express to your home stereo or powered speakers.
  3. Plug AirPort Express into the power outlet. There is no "on" switch.
  4. Use AirPort Utility to create a new network. Ensure that "Enable AirPlay/AirTunes" is checked in the Music tab.
  5. Open iTunes on your computer and choose the AirPort Express(es) you wish to stream music through from the speakers pop-up menu in the lower right-hand corner of the iTunes window.

 

The AirPort Express is connected to the primary Wi-Fi base station with Ethernet. It extends the range of an existing Roaming Wi-Fi network and provides AirPlay streaming.

How to set it up

AirPort Utility 6.1

  1. Ensure that the AirPort base station Ethernet cables are connected as above
  2. Launch AirPort Utility 6.1. The Assistant will automatically configure the Roaming network

AirPort Utility 5.6.1

  1. Connect your AirPort Express to your home stereo or powered speakers.
  2. Plug AirPort Express into the power outlet. There is no "on" switch.
  3. Connect an Ethernet cable (Cat6) from a LAN port of the primary Wi-Fi base station to the Ethernet port of the AirPort Express.
  4. Use AirPort Utility to configure the AirPort Express as part of a Roaming network. For steps to configure a Roaming network, read Setting up and configuring a roaming network (802.11 a/b/g/n).
  5. Ensure that "Enable AirPlay/AirTunes" is checked in the AirPort Utility Music tab.
  6. Open iTunes on your computer and choose the AirPort Express(es) you wish to stream music through from the speakers pop-up menu in the lower right-hand corner of the iTunes window.

 

AirPort Express used exclusively for AirPlay by setting it up in Client Mode.

Choose this configuration if the computer containing your iTunes library may be out of direct range of the AirPort Express, but is within range of the Wi-Fi network.

How to set it up

  1. Connect your AirPort Express to your home stereo or powered speakers.
  2. From your computer, join the wireless network. Use the AirPort status menu in the menu bar on a Mac. On a Windows-based computer, hold the pointer over the wireless connection icon until you see your AirPort network name (SSID), and choose it from the list if there are multiple networks available. Enter the network password, if necessary.
  3. Open iTunes on your computer and choose the AirPort Express(es) you wish to stream music through from the speakers pop-up menu in the lower-right corner of the iTunes window.

 

AirPort Express extends Wi-Fi network range and streams iTunes music simultaneously using Extended Network for AirPort Express with 802.11n, or legacy WDS with AirPort Express 802.11g from another Wi-Fi base station.

Due to the overhead required for this configuration, you may expect AirPlay drop-outs such as intermittent loss of audio.

How to set it up

  1. Connect your AirPort Express to your home stereo or powered speakers.
  2. Plug AirPort Express into the power outlet. There is no "on" switch.
  3. If you are setting up an AirPort Express (802.11a/b/g/n) with other 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi base stations, read Setting up and configuring an extended wireless network (802.11n) OR, if you are setting up an AirPort Express (802.11b/g) with other 802.11b/g Wi-Fi base stations, read Setting up and configuring a Wireless Distribution System (802.11b/g).
  4. Ensure that "Enable AirPlay/AirTunes" is checked in the AirPort Utility Music tab.
  5. Open iTunes on your computer and choose the AirPort Express(es) you wish to stream music through from the speakers pop-up menu in the lower right-hand corner of the iTunes window.
    Note: Apple doesn’t recommend combining 802.11 b/g and 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi base stations in the same network.

 

Additional Information

Tips for using AirPort Express with AirPlay

  • Use powered speakers with a stereo mini-jack connector.
  • Do not connect USB speakers to AirPort Express.
  • Do not connect AirPort Express to the phono jack on your stereo.
  • You can stream iTunes music to more than one AirPort Express at a time by choosing Multiple Speakers from the speakers pop-up menu.
  • Only one computer at a time can stream music to AirPort Express.
  • You can connect your AirPort Express to your home stereo or powered speakers using a digital fiber optic cable, analog mini-stereo-to-dual-RCA cable, or mini-stereo to mini-stereo cable (depending on what type of connectors your stereo uses) connected to the Line Out port.
  • Wireless computers within range of AirPort Express can wirelessly stream music to it using iTunes 4.6 or later.
  • You may connect an optional power cord if you are setting up your AirPort Express away from a power outlet.
Last Modified: Jul 22, 2013
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  • Last Modified: Jul 22, 2013
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